NEW YORK - The NYPD has released body camera footage on Thursday of a chaotic scene in which officers shot and killed a man holding a knife and a fake gun, the first fatal police encounter captured on the devices since officers started wearing them this year.
The footage shows the deadly confrontation between police and a Bronx man, 31-year-old Miguel Richards, a college student studying information technology. During the 15-minute encounter, the video shows officers telling Richards 44 times to drop the knife before he was shot and killed.
EYEWITNESS NEWS REPORTER N.J. BURKETT'S FULL REPORT
NYPD releases bodycam footage of deadly police shooting
Police said Richards also held a toy gun, and officers told him six times to drop it. The video shows the suspect clearly, and the gun that an officer pointed at him. A friend of Richards is also heard repeatedly begging "put your hands up dude!"
"I don't want to shoot you if you have a fake gun in your hand. Is that a real gun?" one officer asks. "Drop that gun to the floor. And drop that knife."
A third officer appears with a stun gun while Richards stands behind his bed. Richards pointed his fake gun with a laser pointer at the officers, who fired both the stun gun and their weapons.
The actual moment he's struck is obscured by the hands of the officer with the stun gun.
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Officers were called to the home by the landlord for a wellness check.
"He was worried about him, so he asked us to check on him," Chief of Department Carlos Gomez said.
The NYPD began equipping officers with body cameras in April, and the officers involved in this incident were equipped this summer. Approximately 22,000 patrol officers will begin using the cameras by 2019, though currently about 600 have them.
Police Commissioner O'Neill sent a message to the rank and file that emphases transparency as an essential component in building community trust.
"We are reviewing each incident on a case by case basis," the message said, stressing this is not a formal policy. "Our level of restraint is exceptional."
Still, the PBA warned of a "dangerous precedent."
"The release of this footage sets a dangerous precedent that jeopardizes police officers' due process rights and confidentiality protections under state law," PBA president Pat Lynch said. "The district attorney's investigation into the case is still ongoing -- it should be allowed to proceed free of pressure and interference, looking at all of the relevant facts alongside the video footage. Moreover, this footage constitutes a confidential personnel record that is protected under New York State Civil Rights Law Section 50-a, and releasing it in violation of the law will expose the police officers involved to a very real and substantial risk of harassment, reprisals and threats to their safety and the safety of their families. If fairness and justice are the goal, they won't be achieved by suspending police officers' rights whenever it is convenient to do so."
The release of the footage came over the objection of Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, who preferred to wait until her investigation was complete.
"I support NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill's desire for transparency in his decision to release body-worn camera videos of the recent police-involved shooting," Clark said in a statement. "Transparency is critical to building trust between community and law enforcement. Notwithstanding, I still have an obligation to protect the integrity of the investigation into this shooting. Releasing videos to the public during the early stages of an investigation may resolve some questions about the incident but it may compromise the integrity of the investigation. It is important for everyone to understand that video footage is just one of many tools that are utilized by the Bronx District Attorney's Office to investigate this shooting. It is my position that the footage be released after the investigation is completed."